The countries in the Baltic Sea Region will work together to improve the integration of migrants and vulnerable groups in the labor market, combat early school leaving, raise youth employment, secure knowledge supply and counteract the effects of an ageing population. Behind the decision on in-depth cooperation are all governments around the Baltic Sea, Iceland and Norway.
Labor Market Ministers, that are responsible for cooperation, have adopted a declaration that is supported by a wide range of parties: the declaration text has been worked out by the Swedish Institute through the Baltic Leadership Program, BLP, as well as the Baltic Sea Labor Forum, BSLF, which consists of both workers and employers organizations, researchers, civil society organizations and authorities at national, regional and local levels. BSLF is a flagship within the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, Policy Area Education, coordinated by the Norden Association and the City of Hamburg. Common objectives include reducing poverty, all forms of inequality, unemployment and tearing barriers to inclusion in the labor market.
Common problems despite differences
Although the Baltic States economies are different, many of the problems are common. This was evident during the Berlin meeting when the Baltic countries adopted the declaration of cooperation. Integration of migrants is an area that almost all countries identified as important. Several of the participants emphasized the importance of free labor mobility, as a way of managing skills.
Countries with strong economies can, by attracting highly skilled workers, solve some of the skills needs. But there is a backside to this: Emigration of highly skilled people is a big problem in, for example, Lithuania. Many well-educated young people leave the country in search of a better life in Britain, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Germany. Lithuania hopes that, in the context of closer Baltic cooperation, the countries will find common denominators and good examples of solutions.
"It is important that those who move get safe and secure working conditions, where trade unions and employers are important players," said Ėglè Radišauskienė, Deputy Labor Market Minister in Lithuania. She also hopes for Baltic cooperation to create new jobs in Lithuania and that information may be disseminated to Lithuanians abroad about good living conditions if they return to their home country.
Russia is experiencing both sides of the coin
In Russia, both dimensions of the mobility of labor are present: The economic strength is unevenly distributed in the country. Highly educated young people leave economically weaker areas and help fill the needs of well-educated labor in economically stronger areas of the country. The economically weaker parts suffer from this migration.
"This is an important issue for us and we are very interested in the cooperation," said Denis Vasilyev, deputy director of the Federal Labor Market Service in Russia.
The labor market requires new skills
Torben Albrecht, State Secretary at the Ministry of Labor in Germany, highlighted digitization and demographic changes as topics for Baltic cooperation.
"We do not think robots and computers will take all the jobs, but many jobs disappear and new ones are created, which require other skills. Here it becomes interesting to learn from each other how to handle the skills supply.
Latvia focuses on vulnerable groups
Ingus Alliks, State Secretary in Latvia, said that the country prioritizes integration of vulnerable groups and looks forward to the exchange of good, evidence-based practices. He was also concerned about the consequences of an aging population:
"Employers have a key role to play in creating an accessible labor market, where older people can also work with good conditions.
Work at full speed
This autumn, work in thematic working groups starts as a common learning process around the Baltic Sea. The groups include actors from local, regional, national, public and private actors as well as civil society. Annica Dahl, State Secretary at the Ministry of Labor in Sweden, looks forward to the deepening cooperation:
"Now we have a platform for common priorities in the labor market. I think the most important thing is to learn from each other. An expert group is set up consisting of politicians and experts in these areas. We will see what results will come out of it.